November 9, 2021

Follo9w the yellow brick road!


Always hold fast to the present.  Every situation, indeed every moment, is of infinite value, for it is the representative of a whole eternity.

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


The sun is up!  And Waldo and I are out and about.  That’s our default condition, I suppose.  Christine texts me in greeting, wanting to know what Waldo and I are doing.  I answer, “WWW,” which covers it pretty well and has become a standard response.  Today, we left in the morning, around 8, and we invite her to join us, but she’s busy doing other stuff – she’s one busy woman.

Waldo’s trotting up ahead, at the far end of the leash, sniffing and picking up sticks.  I do my best to relax my attention and widen my sensory sweep to include as much as I can – everything happening around me I can see, hear, feel or smell.  It’s amazing to me how much I usually miss, just because I’m not paying attention.  What is right there in front of me, when I do pay attention, is wonderous, indeed.  Today, everything is still so very green, except a few of the leaves that are starting to turn.  The birch trees have lost many of their leaves and cover the trail with a yellow blanket that reminds me of the Yellow Brick Road from The Wizard of Oz.  The oaks and most of the maples still carry much of their verdure proudly and the contrast of yellow trail beneath a green umbrella, having just a touch of red and orange, is magical.  It makes me feel like I’m waltzing through the Garden of Eden.  Birds are singing and bugs are buzzing, making the experience seem more immediate and alive.  The smell of moist earth from the nearby ponds, and the musty odor of decaying leaves underfoot gives depth to the ever-present now.

Paying attention to what’s happening around me gives my life a sense of wonder and magic.  I remember a time when I was idly watching out my airplane window as the airliner I was in flew above some wispy white clouds.  I have often seen the shadow of a plane on the clouds below, but this time, the sun, clouds and plane were positioned just right and the shadow was surrounded by a beautiful rainbow halo called a glory.  Something similar, called a brocken spectre, can, on rare occasion, be seen by climbers on the top of a mountain when they look at misty clouds below them and the sun is low and behind them.  I’ve been on the top of many a mountain and never seen a brocken spectre, but the glory I did see.  Once, I was flying a Cessna in Nevada through some virga (light rain that falls from the sky, but evaporates before it hits the ground) and a rainbow appeared that was a complete circle!  It hung there, right in front of us, and then we flew through the center of it!  On the top of Kilimanjaro, I saw nieves penitentes – rows and rows of short vertical sharks-teeth of ice, all aligned parallel with the wind.  These only appear at the peaks of very high mountains where the temperature and air pressure are low.  And, right here on the rail-trail, not so long ago (as described in a previous blog), I noticed steam venting off wet wooden fence rails, leaving a misty rooster tail across the path, emblazoned by the golden light of a low early-morning sun (I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a name, but I haven’t yet learned what this phenomena is called).  It all is so wondrous and beautiful.

But things don’t have to be rare to be appreciated and adored.  Back, many years ago, when I was scuba diving, I would descend eighty to one-hundred feet to the bottom and spend a whole tank of air just looking at what was around me within a nine square-foot area.  Rainbow-colored tube worms, lumpy abalone, an awesome variety of coral, sea anemones, and schools of fish are all part of the kelp forests off the Southern California coast.  I just had to move my gaze a few inches and I would see something new.  Adjusting the buoyancy compensator so I effortlessly floated a few inches above the bottom, I could watch what was there in a small space and be totally entertained until my air got low.

The same thing is true of the places where Waldo and I walk.  If I just pay attention in detail to the common everyday things around me, the trees and bushes, the squirrels and chipmunks, the flowering plants and weeds, the birds and bugs, the rocks and earth, all in a wonderous variety, I can be absorbed in fascination.  I don’t have to be an entomologist to be awed by bugs, an ornithologist to be wowed by birds, or a geologist to be interested in rocks.  All I have to do is open my senses and let the resulting experience into my stream of consciousness.  The fact that I can do that at all is magic.

I love to watch the way Waldo, once his paws hit the trail, joyously falls into just that frame of mind.

He gives me a fine example to follow.


There’s still green here.

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